By Wolfgang Simpson,
Publisher : Authentic, February 1, 2000
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I've been really hitting this thought hard lately... how much do the lives of Western Christians—like me—really reflect the life, heart and presence of Jesus? Or do we just talk a great talk?
The thought hasn’t just come out of thin air. George Barna and others have revealed time and again in their surveys over the last few years that there's no discernable difference between Christians and non-Christians in America. So I’m trying to figure out—why is that? What’s the reason for that?
I think Wolfgang Simpson may help us in his book, Houses That Change the World. Listen to what he says on p.34 (it's actually his key theme/ proposition of the book):
"The house church is an ideal setting to change values, transfer life and therefore transform lifestyles. An analysis of the western church shows that the congregational model is almost totally ineffective at changing basic values and lifestyles. Many Christians end up with the same lifestyle of people around them, and therefore become indistinguishable from society and lose their prophetic edge. House churches provide a place of radical transformation of values and reordering of life, offering mutual and organic accountability, where redeemed peer pressure is made to function for good, and not for bad."
This resonates with my experience. When I read the New Testament, Jesus’ primary example to his followers is a way of life, rather than simply acknowledging certain things or beliefs “to be true.” (The earliest Christians were first called followers of "the Way.") Acknowledging something as “true” (for example, “God exists” or “Jesus is the Christ”) does not have to have any real impact upon one’s life. People can hold certain truths or beliefs “to be true,” but if these truths aren’t embraced as life principles or seen as relevant to living life in the real world, they won’t define who we are deep down in our soul, or shape our character.
The Letter of James reveals that simply “believing that there is one God” in this world is no biggie. He writes, “Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” In other words, even the demons, or any opposing force, can “acknowledge something to be true,” but that doesn’t mean they follow it as a way of life, or embrace it as a life principle. They may believe something is “truth” but they don’t believe IN it.
Maybe this reflects more accurately the condition of Christianity in the West. Instead of being the church, we simply… go to church. It's easier to go to church than to be the church. (It's both.) Being the church is harder. In fact, it's impossible really, without being intimately connected to the Source of the church: Jesus himself. Which is why Wolfgang Simpson sees so much value in the house church model, and perhaps why he calls it a "supernatural communal life form" (p. 102).
It may be that the House Church setting provides easier access and intimacy to the “Presence of Jesus” than other forms of church meetings. I like where he's going. I'm wrestling hard on this one.... wondering how this can inform our current western ways of doing church.